• Just Another Day in Fourth Grade

    Patricia Smith

    Spring 2024

    Two white men stood at the front of classroom, asking for her,
    mispronouncing her simple name. Their ties were so tight at
    their collars their heads seemed poised to pop. They were official
    muscle, like no men she had ever seen. In a city essay competition,
    she had used words she wasn’t supposed to know—not her, being
    nappy and sparse, not her, living with just one parent, like just one
    leg. Not her, in that two room on the west side with rat scurry and
    no place to buy fresh food. Not her, black like she was.

    The white men from the city asked for her and her teacher,
    wide-eyed, just turned her over. The little girl hung her head and

    Patricia Smith is the author of eight books of poetry, including Unshuttered and Incendiary Art, winner of the 2018 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. She is the most recent recipient of the Aiken Taylor Award for Modern American Poetry, and she teaches at Princeton University.

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